Friday, May 25, 2007

Celluloid Time

I recently bought a DVD with five of Marlene Dietrich’s movies. I did it mainly because I wanted Morocco.

Morocco (1930) is one of my favourite movies. It was done 77 years ago! Unbelievable! A lifetime. Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper were both 29 years old, at the peak of their splendour. The love story is beautiful, with all the right romantic ingredients, the Foreign Legion, the desert, the (almost) lost heroine who finds herself by finding and giving in to a simple love.

I used to love old movies, especially black & white classics, with the great names of the early cinematography rolling on their titles. Rudolph Valentino, Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable. I used to seek the masterpieces of the Europeans, Fellini, Antonioni, Bergman. I still love all of them, and one of my dreams is to find the time to quietly watch a classic Western, cuddled with a mug of coffee, on a calm Sunday morning.

But, lately, a strange feeling briefly shadows my heart, when I happen upon such a film. I cannot help but think that all those people on the screen, all those laughing, crying, loving, living, fighting, lively people, even the children, are most certainly long dead. I quickly chase the thought away, but I find myself hopefully calculating how old they would have been now, and somehow find a foolish comfort in telling myself that they couldn’t have lived anyway to be one hundred, or older, or that the youngest of them might still be alive.

Time is unbelievably cruel, its hands devastating on our faces, on our dreams, on our hearts, on our lives.

We are vain. Whether we admit it or not, whether we are aware of it or not, we all seek immortality. (Will keeping a web log give you a modest shot at it?) I admit, I am afraid. Therefore, I try to spare my feelings, carefully, deliberately avoiding thoughts of age, and death, and loss. Better to look to the future. Seek the youth, the new, the pleasure, the simple pleasures. Watch the new stuff, listen to the new music. Do as much as possible. Do not think about it.

I was, am, and always will be a movie buff. Films represent a reference for me. I love the actors. They are some of the few fortunate people who – if they truly believe in their art - can live many different lives in the course of one. But, purposely, I will always think of Gary Cooper as he is in Morocco. Errol Flynn will always be, for me, Captain Blood.

Gérard Philippe, dead at 37, and James Dean, gone at 24, while listening to the engine of his Porsche, have both, in an ironic way, cheated Time. They will always be young, on that powerful and fragile celluloid. No effort. They will always be Fanfan la Tulipe and Jim Stark.


L.M.Noonan said...

I once won a contest at an art students ball for impersonating marlene.I think I've seen every one of her movies. And Gary Cooper, what a darling. I used to drive everybody crazy when they used to show these movies on telly in the wee hours of the morning. Shanhai Express is another favourite, and isnt the blue angel fabulous?
At art school I joined the film club to keep watching these gems. Now they don't show them on telly any more. Very sad really.

Vesper said...

Wow, I would've liked to see that contest!
I love her too. I've also bought a CD with her songs from her films.
Yes, they don't show these movies too much; they belong to a differently paced world, I guess. Well, this only increases the delight of "hunting" for or discovering such treasure.